A Colombian national has pleaded guilty to conspiring to import 6 tons of cocaine to a Catonsville tile warehouse.
Luis Ferrin, 40, of Catonsville, entered his plea Monday before Judge J. Frederick Motz in U.S. District Court in Baltimore. Sentencing was set for Jan. 12. Ferrin could receive from 10 years to life in prison without parole.
The high-quality cocaine was the largest-known shipment of illegal drugs ever destined for Maryland.
It was packed inside floor tiles and stored in five containers that were to be shipped to the Port of Baltimore on July 20, then delivered to Madison Tile Co. in Catonsville. The load, which originated in Colombia, was seized in Panama on July 15 by Panamanian authorities. Its estimated street value was $200 million.
Ferrin's name was listed as the operator of Madison Tile. He leased the Catonsville warehouse for $15,120 a year and a warehouse in Brooklyn, N.Y., for $2,000 a month, according to a statement of facts presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Purcell.
The Catonsville warehouse received 19 shipments of tile between January 1991 and June 1992, according to the statement of facts.
Mr. Purcell said authorities believe the earlier shipments contained no drugs and were "dry runs" intended to convince law enforcement officers that the business was legitimate. The prosecutor also said Ferrin had bought a "micro-pulverizer" to destroy tiles that were altered to hold cocaine. He said most of the tile was never sold or distributed.
Ferrin received $362,000 in 1991 from unknown sources to pay for his expenses, court papers say. Included were his $1,000-per-week salary, $925 monthly rent for his home and rent for the two warehouses.
When he was arrested on July 16, his home had virtually no furniture, and he had sent most of his family's belongings to Cali, Colombia, court papers say.